Here’s a little tidbit for you to nibble on: golf is boring. It’s boring to watch and boring to play. If you have insomnia, just watch golf and you will be unconscious within five minutes. Luckily, for those of us that want to have fun and play golf, there is a game that was invented called minigolf. It’s fun and challenging and it won’t make you want to drive a spike through your hand just to escape the boredom of real golf. Also lucky for us, minigolf has made a pretty smooth transition to the video game world so it can be enjoyed by those that are allergic to the sun (or people). And Planet Minigolf is the next player trying to hit a hole-in-one with gamers.
The first thing I noticed about Planet Minigolf is that it went for a more “realistic” look as opposed to the “cartoony” look other minigolf games used. The five players you can choose from to play as are certainly more realistic looking but still kind of over the top, as just to remind you that you are playing an arcade game. The look of the courses is pretty stunning as well. Of course the graphics are not nearly as good as those found in your typical “retail” games, but they don’t fail to impress. There are three courses you can choose to play and all of them have background noises going on that match the locale. For example, one of the courses is near a beach so you will hear seagulls gawking and waves crashing.
The gameplay is simplistic: hit the ball in the hole in as little strokes as you can. While this sounds simple and starts out easy enough, the holes do get progressively more challenging. For each of the locations, there are four different courses awaiting you. When you start out, however, the only one available on each location is the Warm-Up course. This lets you get accustomed to the control scheme you picked and prepares you for what lies ahead. Once you win this course (and you must win, if you take 2nd place, no new courses will unlock), the Pro course is unlocked. The holes on these courses are a little more difficult and require a little more patience. But to help in your journey, there are random power-ups thrown in to try and help you conquer the course. Honestly, I have absolutely no idea why they are even in the game. You don’t really use them that often and, for the most part, they are more of a hindrance than a helper. Also, the game does a great job of not telling you how to use them.
Once you mastered the Pro course, you unlock the Extreme course. Obviously this course requires a bit more skill and a lot more patience than the Pro course. What I noticed while playing through these courses is that there is a lot more trial-and-error going on than I care for and a lot of what I call “four-letter word moments.” The best example I have of this is when you need to hit the ball up a ramp and into a lift so the ball can be delivered to the next part of the hole. Going in, I knew that I would be wasting a couple of shots just trying to figure out how much power I need to use to get the ball to its destination. Well, on one of the courses, it took me five shots to get it just right. If I hit the ball slightly too weak, the ball would just bounce off the lift, too hard and the ball would fly over the lift. Once I figured out the perfect strength, I would hit the Start button and press restart. The kicker here is that you don’t restart the hole but the whole course. But that’s OK, practice makes perfect, and you will need a considerable amount of practice to play this game.
Once the Extreme course is behind you, you unlock the final course that is just wacky hence the name of the Wacky Course. After all the frustration you have been through with the Extreme course, the Wacky course helps to ease the tension.
As with any golf-type game, Planet Minigolf has 3 control schemes to choose from. There’s Easy where all you have to do is hold the X button down until you have reached the desired power on the strength meter and then release. The 3-click should be familiar to those that have played any type of golf game. Hit the X button once to initiate the shot, press again at the right time to set the power, and then press it a final time where it is indicated on the screen for a perfect swing. And this is where the problem lies with me: where is the indicator? I could never see it so my shot would go all over the place. For the sake of this game, I hope I am just blind. The final type is the Direct method which has you pulling back on the Left Stick to the desired power and then flinging it forward. This method simulates the actual swing in minigolf. Out of the three, I used Easy the most (for obvious reasons) but if you prefer the other two methods, then more power to you. But be warned: they both need a lot of practice to get the desired shot.
And what minigolf game would be complete without customization? Planet Minigolf has a good amount of it. As you finish the courses, you unlock keys for different feats you accomplished during play. There are three types: bronze which you win on the Warm-Up, Pro, or Extreme courses, silver which are received on the Pro, Extreme, and Wacky courses and gold which are won on the Extreme and Wacky courses. You can use these keys to unlock different balls and outfits for you character. The different types of keys unlock different customization parts, but the biggest customization you can do is create your own course. So if you have mastered all the other courses, why not try your hand at creating your very own course? Oh, and I did forget to mention that there are weekly tournaments. These are indicated by a red exclamation mark on the map.
Of course there are a few multiplayer modes you can try if you are man enough. There are two types of game modes: Online and Local. In local you can play with up to 5 other players on the same PS3. You can choose from 4 different game modes in the play online menu: 1 on 1 which is a 2 player match. Singles is a 4 player free-for-all. Doubles is a 2 on 2 contest, and Teams which is a 3 player team match.
Besides the 3-click control scheme and useless power-ups, my biggest problem with the game is the camera. In other games of this type, you can pan out and get a good luck at the hole and see where the obstacles are. In this game, you can pan out, but you can only then swing around the hole and not get a very good look at anything. This is a huge problem because if the hole is long you kind of would like to know where the traps are and, more specifically, the exact location of the hole.
Planet Minigolf is a decent minigolf game that, once you have mastered the controls and learned the perfect way to play each hole, is fun to play. For me it is also the most frustrating minigolf game I have ever played. I found myself more times than not resetting the course and making it personal when I knew I got my shot just right and the game saying otherwise. A lot of this could be avoided if they fix the 3-click control and put in a decent camera that lets you see the entire hole. Planet Minigolf tries for the hole-in-one but comes up two strokes behind.
Review copy provided by publisher.